Last week something new and suspect happened here at Kindle. We received an email from a man named Alex alleging that he was writing an article covering who funded Amazon Watch in their lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. In the course of his investigation, Alex traced Amazon Watch’s major donors, which includes Kindle Project. Alex questioned whether it was time for us to reevaluate our commitment to Amazon Watch, proclaiming unfounded allegations of fraud in their case against Chevron. He inquired, “Do you still support and fund Amazon Watch even after serious questions about the behavior of the plaintiffs’ leading lawyers have been raised?”
After some research, we found that Alex was preparing this article for his personal blog clumsily entitled, Chevron Ecuador Lawsuit Clearinghouse. Since receiving this letter Alex’s identity has been exposed in the press as the hubby of a prominent Chevron executive, and not in fact, a journalist whatsoever. Whether Alex is directly paid by Chevron to do this dirty work or if he is simply an industry renegade out to conduct a personal smear campaign, we may never know. Regardless, we consider this type of communication to be an intimidation tactic orchestrated in poor taste. Surely such bullying was meant to shake our partnership with Amazon Watch, when in fact, it only reinforced it.
Late Tuesday afternoon we sent Alex our response. By Wednesday morning, not only had his sordid story hit the press, but his blog had suddenly disappeared off the web entirely. The only crumb left of it’s presence was a notice from WordPress stating that the authors had deleted the blog.
As strategies on all fronts have been amped up lately, this is a pivotal time. As funders, Kindle believes that now more than ever, we must be bold with our grantmaking. We must be vocal about who we support and why. We must form new and strong alliances with each other. Donors and foundation peeps: to conspire and dream about funding strategies contact Kindle Co-Director Sadaf Cameron: email@example.com.
Below you’ll find our response letter and the original email from Alex. Scroll down to see link to media coverage of this issue.
Kindle Project Response to Inquiry Regarding Amazon Watch
Thank you for this unique opportunity to reiterate our support of the tremendous efforts of Amazon Watch and other groups working relentlessly to stand up against the activities of Chevron and other such corporate profiteers. Without your close attention to detail and your following of the paper trail of support to Amazon Watch, we may have not been able to utilize your platform to get our statement out to an otherwise neglected audience. In the name of unbiased journalism and free speech, well done.
Kindle Project is proud to support the work of Amazon Watch in their fight to protect the environment and people of Ecuador. We are humbled to have collaborated with Amazon Watch in their unwavering stance against Chevron and its conspirators despite intimidation, parsimonious intelligence, and trivial pursuits, such as yours, to discredit their ongoing work. Amazon Watch has, and continues to, set a precedent of success, as was demonstrated in February when Judge Nicolás Zambrano made history by ordering Chevron to pay $9 billion in human health and environmental damages from its devastating contamination in Ecuador. This is by far one of the largest known legal wins in favor of environmental protection.
Your inquiry satisfies a fundamental question underlying all our funding decisions: How effective is the work of our partnerships? The time you have spent to investigate and contact funders, such as ourselves, is an absolute affirmation that our collective strategy, hard work, and dedication pays off.
Our vision towards social and environmental justice as a whole has been reinvigorated. The commitment to our mission and our partners has only been strengthened. We will continue to find, fund, and collaborate with groups such as Amazon Watch and strive harder to connect with other funding sources that will join us in our continued efforts.
Should you have questions or concerns, you can contact either one of us directly via email.
Sadaf Cameron – Co-Founder/Co-Director
Arianne Shaffer – Media and Project Coordinator
Original Email from Alex – Subject line: Your Large Donation to Amazon Watch
I’m writing an article highlighting Amazon Watch’s top donors which will include mentioning The Kindle Project. As you know, for many years Amazon Watch has been leading the campaign against Chevron regarding its alleged pollution in Ecuador. Despite serious allegations of fraud against the plaintiffs in the case, Amazon Watch has ramped up its activism against Chevron. My article highlights organizations such as yours and questions whether it is time to reevaluate your support for Amazon Watch. Below are just some of the points I will raise in my article. My simple question for you is: Do you still support and fund Amazon Watch even after serious questions about the behavior of the plaintiffs’ leading lawyers have been raised?
For example, Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch lectures Steven Donziger in a meeting that discuses the deployment of a private army to intimidate the Ecuadorian judge presiding over the case against Chevron: “I just want you to know that it’s illegal to conspire to break the law.” This quote comes from an outtake of the documentary film Crude, in which Donziger meets with Soltani and other team members to discuss pressure tactics that they would use on the Ecuadorian court to pressure the judge to rule in their favor.
Link to video clips including the outtake of the quote above: http://chevronecuadorlawsuitclearinghouse.wordpress.com/crude-outtakes/
At Chevron’s last shareholders’ meeting, the company shot back forcefully with a video that effectively dismantles the allegations being made by Amazon Watch and the plaintiffs’ lawyers. You can view it here: http://chevronecuadorlawsuitclearinghouse.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/activist-ignore-evidence-to-back-shakedown-suit-against-chevron/
The Wall Street Journal calls the case against Chevron a “Shakedown” and a “comedy of legal errors against Chevron.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703652104576121941625806096.html
For years, serious questions about Donziger’s activities in Ecuador have been repeatedly raised. In a recent ruling, Judge Lewis Kaplan of the U.S. district court for the Southern District of New York found “substantial evidence that Donziger and others working with him have improperly (1) pressured, intimidated, and influenced Ecuadorian courts, (2) colluded with Donziger and with Cabrera to substitute their own biased work product for the neutral and impartial assessment that Cabrera was appointed to produce, [and] (3) concealed that role…” Other rulings include a federal court in the Western District of North Carolina which found that “what has blatantly occurred in this matter would in fact be considered fraud by any court,” and regarding the conduct of the plaintiff’s lawyers, a District Court in the District of New Jersey found that their activities could not constitute “anything but a fraud on the judicial proceeding” in the Lago Agrio lawsuit.
On March 7, 2011, Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction order against the RICO defendants (Donziger and other lawyers and consultants). The preliminary injunction order “enjoins and restrains, pending the final determination of the RICO case, defendants from receiving benefit from, directly or indirectly, commencing, prosecuting, advancing in any way, or receiving benefit from any action or proceeding, outside the Republic of Ecuador, for recognition or enforcement of the judgment rendered against Chevron, or any other judgment that hereafter may be rendered in the Lago Agrio Case by that court or by any other court in Ecuador, or for prejudgment seizure or attachment of assets, outside the Republic of Ecuador, based upon judgment.”
And last November, Judge Kaplan wrote that “Donziger’s own words raise substantial questions as to his possible criminal liability and amenability to professional discipline.”
On February 9, 2011, an international panel of arbitrators presiding in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ordered the Republic of Ecuador to “take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any judgment” against Chevron in the Lago Agrio case pending further order or award from the international tribunal.
In light of all this and other unethical behavior by the team suing Chevron, Amazon Watch continues its anti-Chevron campaign. The basic question that my article attempts to answer is: Does The Kindle Project endorse the tactics used by plaintiff’s lawyers, their PR consultants and groups like Amazon Watch? I’m looking forward to your response.
Recent Media Coverage of Alex Thorne and This Issue:
Image of Soltani sourced from Amazon Watch website.